||Detonator 43.45 Driver Report
March 31, 2003 Brandon Bell
Summary: With full DirectX 9 support, NVIDIA's Detonator 43.45 driver is the latest release from the company to date. In today's article we examine the performance of this driver with video cards ranging all the way back to GeForce2 MX. How do the new drivers perform, and how compatible are they with today's latest games? Find out in this article!
| Introduction||Page:: ( 1 / 12 )|
Where did the Detonator reports go?
It has been a long time since we’ve brought you a Detonator driver report, but it’s not due to an oversight on our part – it has literally been months since NVIDIA officially updated its Detonator driver family, December of last year in fact. Because of this, there hasn’t been much to talk about.
We have received supplemental drivers for use with NVIDIA’s GeForce FX family (which are also compatible with older GeForce products), but these drivers were far from perfect. System stability with these additional drivers was below what we’ve come to expect from an NVIDIA driver, and we ran into multiple visual quirks with GeForce3 and GeForce FX cards in a variety of applications. It goes without saying that there was a reason these drivers were regarded as beta releases, they simply weren’t ready for primetime.
Besides the aforementioned issues (which have been discussed in our GeForce FX preview articles), there have also been suggestions that these drivers were provided merely to improve scores for NVIDIA-based cards in FutureMark’s 3DMark 03 benchmark. The situation has gotten so bad that FutureMark recently decided to discard any scores that were taken with these drivers in its database of user submitted scores on their website.
Fortunately, the problems we noticed with NVIDIA’s 42.6x beta drivers are no longer present in 43.45. We encountered no random rebooting (a problem that was readily present in 42.69) with any of the video cards we tested, nor did we run into any crashes or lockups. From what we can tell so far these drivers are a vast improvement over the releases we received last month, reminiscent of the experiences we’ve had with official Detonator releases we’ve tested with in the past.
In terms of visual quality, we also have no complaints. The texture corruption in 42.72 with GeForce3 has been resolved and we can also report that the quality issues with GeForce4 and 3DMark 03 have also been addressed. Texture quality has been left unchanged, but strangely enough we noticed that anisotropic filtering performance in “aggressive” mode is actually slower than “quality” (by as much as 4%). Visually, both modes look very similar, so we ran all our tests with NVIDIA’s quality setting enabled for this article.
SIDEBAR: These drivers support Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP.
| Test Systems||Page:: ( 2 / 12 )|
Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz
512MB Corsair XMS3200 (CAS Latency 1.5) DDR SDRAM
ASUS V8200 GeForce3
MSI G4Ti 4600-V2TD8X
NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4200-8X
NVIDIA GeForce4 MX 460
NVIDIA GeForce2 MX 400
NVIDIA GeForce2 Ti
Driver version Detonator 40.91
Driver version Detonator 43.45
30GB IBM Deskstar DTLA 307030 ATA/100 Hard Drive
Windows XP Professional
Quake III: Arena version 1.17
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter (Elephant Atrium demo)
Unreal Tournament 2003
SIDEBAR: Did you notice that NVIDIA also has Linux AMD64 drivers available for download on its site?
| 3DMark03||Page:: ( 3 / 12 )|
Chances are you’ve probably seen reports of the “optimizations” NVIDIA has implemented with its newer drivers in 3DMark 03. The results you see here probably come as no surprise. It is interesting to see however that GeForce3’s performance remains untouched in 43.45.
SIDEBAR: NVIDIA recently released its DX9 demos from Comdex last year. If you’re lucky enough to own a GeForce FX card, you may want to try them out!
| 3DMark03 – Frame Rates||Page:: ( 4 / 12 )|
3DMark03 – Wings of Fury
3DMark03 – Battle of Proxycon
3DMark03 – Troll’s Lair
SIDEBAR: What was up with that DX9.0a release last week?
| Serious Sam 2||Page:: ( 5 / 12 )|
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
With GeForce4 Ti 4200 and Ti 4600, we witnessed some pretty surprising performance decreases at high resolutions, in some cases as high as 7%. We reinstalled and re-ran the tests again just to make sure, and obtained similar results. Fortunately this title is a bit on the old side so we’re still getting playable frame rates, but the results are a little alarming nonetheless.
SIDEBAR: GeForce2 MX400 testing was painfully slow, some scores took over 45 minutes to run in just one resolution!
| Quake III||Page:: ( 6 / 12 )|
Quake III - High Quality
In Quake 3, we see no discernible performance difference between 40.91 and 43.45, regardless of the video card used. We see a slight performance decline with GeForce3 and 43.95, but the margin is less than one percent, nothing to worry about.
SIDEBAR: Right after NVIDIA announces its foundry agreement with IBM, it reaffirms its commitment to TSMC? Weird.
| Comanche 4||Page:: ( 7 / 12 )|
Comanche 4 demo
We see a slight performance increase for GeForce4 Ti 4600 with the 43.45 driver, and to a lesser extent with GeForce4 Ti 4200.
SIDEBAR: Until the RAH-66 Comanche comes online, the US Army’s primary scout helicopter is the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.
| Unreal Tournament 2003||Page:: ( 8 / 12 )|
Unreal Tournament 2003 - flyby
Unreal Tournament 2003 - botmatch
Other than the GeForce4 Ti 4600 botmatch scores, performance with the 43.45 driver remains roughly the same. We do see a slight performance increase in the flyby tests, but the margin is approximately 1%.
SIDEBAR: It takes so long to run some of the UT numbers with the GeForce2 MX that this will probably be the last time we use this card in an article.
| UT 4x AA||Page:: ( 9 / 12 )|
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby
Unreal Tournament 2003 Botmatch
Once again we’re seeing a performance improvement in botmatch scores, but flyby remains largely the same.
SIDEBAR: Well, March has come and gone, where is GeForce FX 5800 Ultra and RADEON 9800 PRO?
| 2x Anti-Aliasing||Page:: ( 10 / 12 )|
Quake III – High Quality
SIDEBAR: NVIDIA is based in Santa Clara, CA.
| 4x Anti-Aliasing||Page:: ( 11 / 12 )|
Quake III – High Quality
In Quake 3, we obtained some pretty substantial performance improvements with the GeForce4 Ti cards (and GeForce4 MX in some cases) once 4x anti-aliasing was enabled. In some cases, the performance gains approach 25%! That’s a very substantial increase for a driver update, so we re-ran the scores to confirm the results. It goes without saying that we were very impressed!
SIDEBAR: E3 is coming soon, should be interesting to see how id has progressed on Doom3.
| Final Thoughts||Page:: ( 12 / 12 )|
DirectX 7 card owners
In our testing, we found little or no performance difference between the 43.45 and 40.91 drivers released by NVIDIA last year. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as these DX7 cards have all benefited from multiple driver updates over the course of their lifetimes; the Detonator team has probably extracted all the performance they’re going to get from the hardware.
Therefore, unless you’re running into serious compatibility or stability problems, we don’t feel you should rush out to download these newer drivers. After all, when upgrading to a newer driver there’s always the danger that you can run into new stability or compatibility problems. When there’s no performance incentive to upgrade, you must ask yourself if downloading this new driver is worth the risk (assuming your system is running fine today).
DirectX 8 card owners
For GeForce3 users, it looks like last week’s driver release offers nothing new for you either. Sure, you’ve now got official DX9 support from NVIDIA, but in all other aspects, 43.45 brings nothing new to the table. Like the GeForce2 and GeForce4 MX owners we just mentioned, you must decide for yourself if this new driver is worth downloading assuming your needs and the stability of your current system configuration. Sometimes it’s just best to stick with older drivers until you really need to upgrade.
For GeForce4 Titanium users, the situation is a bit more complex. We actually witnessed some performance improvements when 4x anti-aliasing was enabled (and a synthetic benchmark, 3DMark 03). Unfortunately, we also observed a performance decline with Serious Sam 2 so the decision isn’t clear cut. If you currently find yourself playing with 4x anti-aliasing you should seriously consider giving the 43.45 driver a try, otherwise there isn’t much new with this new driver.
As far as DX8 versus DX9 performance, we ran a few quick tests and couldn’t see any discernible performance difference with either API, so if you feel uncomfortable upgrading to DX9, feel free to stick with DX8.1.
Overall, it’s good to see NVIDIA update its Detonator driver family, if only to show that it’s still committed to its users. And the improved anti-aliasing performance is certainly welcome news to GeForce4 Titanium owners.
SIDEBAR: Have you run into problems with Detonator 43.45 or has your system been running smoothly. Share your experience with others in the news comments!